Anthem of the Seas - 3 Night Royal Experience, Paris & Bruges Cruise
At the Heron Tower in London on the 21st November 2013, I attended the press launch where President and CEO, Adam Goldstein, announced Royal Caribbean's worst-kept secret - Anthem would be coming to Southampton in 2015.  Even though it wasn't really news, it was still as exciting as when they said Independence would be ours from 2008.  Indy had done us proud for seven years and I'll miss her but onwards and upwards!  Itineraries were announced on the 10th February 2014, with Crown & Anchor booking beginning the 26th and going on general sale the 3rd March.  The travel agent I intended to use didn't respond to my enquiry so I went with Sarah at Lincolnshire Cruise Club, who I had met briefly during her visit to Queen Mary 2 in June 2012.  I wanted the maiden and three night on the 30th for my Norwegian friend Oskar and myself.  How hard could that be?  VERY, as it turned out.  Since some one at RCCL in Miami decreed the UK office should be split, only leaving Celebrity bookings there, chaos ensued trying to get any sense from Guatemala.  It took Sarah HOURS to get anywhere and when she finally spoke to someone about the booking, it turned out the girl had only been there a week.  They may speak perfect English (one of the lame reasons they gave for basing it there) but the UK people have done this YEARS.  Bring it back PLEASE!!!!  Thanks to Sarah we got cabin 3150 on the port side  Unfortunately, I hadn't found a job so the maiden had to be cancelled, leaving the short which was better than nothing.  The balance was paid and I had my passport to renew.  With constant vet bills since July 2014 and one of the dogs dying, my Jobseekers Allowance was being taken so I finally managed to get the application form in 5 weeks before the old expired.  The Post Office said it would take three weeks but it was back in six days.  Now I could get excited and do my online check-in!  On this ship they had introduced a variation of Freestyle called Dynamic Dining.  Quantum had it first and there had been numerous complaints, mainly about people waiting two hours at the free dining rooms.  With Freestyle, you just turn up.  With Dynamic Dining, they added an online option to pre-book which causes the problem.  We managed to get Silk on the first night and The Grande on the last but both were a ridiculous 9.45pm, the only time left. Reports said they had dropped it for Anthem, with one saying she had been delayed to rip out the dining room and put in a new one - wrong!  They just returned set seating and called it Classic Dining.  Royal Caribbean, I love you madly and have sailed with you more than anyone else but please leave this sort of thing to NCL or ditch pre-booking because it's unfair on everyone.

The day arrived and thankfully was sunny.  Oskar had arrived the previous day and we met at Town Quay then made our way slowly round to City Terminal via Mayflower Park.  I ended up with three luggage tags just because I asked for a stapler to put Oskar's on his case.  Check-in was done outside the terminal so it was a good job it wasn't wet.  They scan the barcode on your SetSail pass and if you didn't upload a photo, they'll take one before stamping the pass.  It was very efficient.  As it was still a bit too early for our selected 11.15am arrival time, we went to the waiting room until we saw people entering the terminal.  Inside were two lines, one for those with the pass, one without.  There was also the Diamond upwards security, which were the new scanners they added for the visit of Oasis.  After that you are accosted by one of the photographers.  We had one but then also with the ship and one of the girls said my T-shirt of Vision was the wrong ship.  We had a quick look around en route to the Windjammer for some lunch.  The lifts were large and plentiful and food selection in the Windjammer fantastic.  They had sinks by the entrance and someone refusing to let you in until you had washed your hands.  Well done on that.  On Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Royal Princess people just walked past theirs.  We sat outside which wasn't crowded due to the cool air.  After lunch we wandered more, coming across Gigi the giraffe, Sea Plex and Rip Cord, which people were already doing.  The cabins were ready but we decided to go on the North Star first.  I'm terrified of heights but had Oskar to calm me down if necessary, which thankfully it wasn't.  I loved it!  100 metres or 300 feet in the air but just like being in a lift.  Then we went to the cabin.  This was a new thing to me.  Your cruise cards are there, not given to you after checking in.  One was at the door so you could open it, the other with the WOW bands, which basically do the same thing as the card.  It was the first time I had an oceanview cabin with the bed against a wall rather than below the window.  There was plenty of storage, cupboards and drawers and the bathroom was nice.  Our steward Janice introduced herself and thought I was Oskar's mother.  That made us chuckle.  She said she would separate the beds after muster so we went for a wander to check out a decent place up top for sailaway only to find there wasn't one except on the stern.  Do the people who design ships or approve them actually LIKE ships?  No observation area overlooking the bow apart from in the boiling Solarium and locked wings leading out from there.  Metal wall and glass panels along a good two-thirds of it with gaps between.  Down to inspect the Prom deck which is similar to Solstice class which is bloody awful.  Give me a bloody blowtorch and hammer!  Quick snack and drink in Two70 then muster.

Muster was at 4pm and we watched a video in the theatre, beginning with one about washing your hands.  The guides showed how to put o your life jacket but hardly anyone paid attention.  It was like being on a plane.  Coats grabbed afterwards then upon deck for sailaway.  The band were VERY loud, like on Royal Princess, and thanks to no decent forward observation area, there was no escape like on there too.  They were giving out inaugural season flags and we finally left at 5pm.  Once we realised we would be turning on the spot instead of going astern to the Lower Swinging Ground and turn there, we dashed to the stern.  Peace at last!  We stayed there until passing Hythe then stayed on that deck to Calshot.  It was pretty quiet as people began to go back inside.  There was a code Alpha called but one minute she said Deck 6, Zone 1 and the repeat was Deck 1, Zone 6.

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© Patricia Dempsey 30th April-3rd May 2015
Not to be reproduced without permission